•  577
    Bioconservatism, Bioliberalism, and Repugnance
    Monash Bioethics Review 28 (1). 2009.
    We consider the current debate between bioconservatives and their opponents—whom we dub bioliberals—about the moral acceptability of human enhancement and the policy implications of moral debates about enhancement. We argue that this debate has reached an impasse, largely because bioconservatives hold that we should honour intuitions about the special value of being human, even if we cannot identify reasons to ground those intuitions. We argue that although intuitions are often a reliable guide …Read more
  •  556
    Defensible territory for entity realism
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (4): 701-722. 2001.
    In the face of argument to the contrary, it is shown that there is defensible middle ground available for entity realism, between the extremes of scientific realism and empiricist antirealism. Cartwright's ([1983]) earlier argument for defensible middle ground between these extremes, which depended crucially on the viability of an underdeveloped distinction between inference to the best explanation (IBE) and inference to the most probable cause (IPC), is examined and its defects are identified. …Read more
  •  234
    Abstract Following Clarke (2002), a Lakatosian approach is used to account for the epistemic development of conspiracy theories. It is then argued that the hypercritical atmosphere of the internet has slowed down the development of conspiracy theories, discouraging conspiracy theorists from articulating explicit versions of their favoured theories, which could form the hard core of Lakatosian research pro grammes. The argument is illustrated with a study of the “controlled demolition” theory of …Read more
  •  212
    Conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorizing
    Philosophy of the Social Sciences 32 (2): 131-150. 2002.
    The dismissive attitude of intellectuals toward conspiracy theorists is considered and given some justification. It is argued that intellectuals are entitled to an attitude of prima facie skepticism toward the theories propounded by conspiracy theorists, because conspiracy theorists have an irrational tendency to continue to believe in conspiracy theories, even when these take on the appearance of forming the core of degenerating research program. It is further argued that the pervasive effect o…Read more
  •  182
    I consider two transcendental arguments for realism in the philosophy of science, which are due to Roy Bhaskar (A realist theory of science, 1975) and Nancy Cartwright (The dappled world, 1999). Bhaskar and Cartwright are both influential figures, however there is little discussion of their use of transcendental arguments in the literature. Here I seek to correct this oversight. I begin by describing the role of the transcendental arguments in question, in the context of the broader philosophica…Read more
  •  170
    Conscientious Objection to Vaccination
    with Alberto Giubilini and Mary Jean Walker
    Bioethics 31 (3): 155-161. 2017.
    Vaccine refusal occurs for a variety of reasons. In this article we examine vaccine refusals that are made on conscientious grounds; that is, for religious, moral, or philosophical reasons. We focus on two questions: first, whether people should be entitled to conscientiously object to vaccination against contagious diseases ; second, if so, to what constraints or requirements should conscientious objection to vaccination be subject. To address these questions, we consider an analogy between CO …Read more
  •  131
    Rapid advances in neuroscience may enable us to identify the neural correlates of ordinary decision making. Such knowledge opens up the possibility of acquiring highly accurate information about people’s competence to consent to medical procedures and to participate in medical research. Currently we are unable to determine competence to consent with accuracy and we make a number of unrealistic practical assumptions to deal with our ignorance. Here I argue that if we are able to detect competence…Read more
  •  125
    The Duty to Disclose Adverse Clinical Trial Results
    with S. Matthew Liao and Mark Sheehan
    American Journal of Bioethics 9 (8): 24-32. 2009.
    Participants in some clinical trials are at risk of being harmed and sometimes are seriously harmed as a result of not being provided with available, relevant risk information. We argue that this situation is unacceptable and that there is a moral duty to disclose all adverse clinical trial results to participants in clinical trials. This duty is grounded in the human right not to be placed at risk of harm without informed consent. We consider objections to disclosure grounded in considerations …Read more
  •  122
    Religion as an Evolutionary Byproduct: A Critique of the Standard Model
    with R. Powell
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 63 (3): 457-486. 2012.
    The dominant view in the cognitive science of religion (the ‘Standard Model’) is that religious belief and behaviour are not adaptive traits but rather incidental byproducts of the cognitive architecture of mind. Because evidence for the Standard Model is inconclusive, the case for it depends crucially on its alleged methodological superiority to selectionist alternatives. However, we show that the Standard Model has both methodological and evidential disadvantages when compared with selectionis…Read more
  •  99
    Naturalism, science and the supernatural
    Sophia 48 (2): 127-142. 2009.
    There is overwhelming agreement amongst naturalists that a naturalistic ontology should not allow for the possibility of supernatural entities. I argue, against this prevailing consensus, that naturalists have no proper basis to oppose the existence of supernatural entities. Naturalism is characterized, following Leiter and Rea, as a position which involves a primary commitment to scientific methodology and it is argued that any naturalistic ontological commitments must be compatible with this p…Read more
  •  98
    Scientific Imperialism and the Proper Relations between the Sciences
    with Adrian Walsh
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (2): 195-207. 2009.
    John Dupr argues that 'scientific imperialism' can result in 'misguided' science being considered acceptable. 'Misguided' is an explicitly normative term and the use of the pejorative 'imperialistic' is implicitly normative. However, Dupr has not justified the normative dimension of his critique. We identify two ways in which it might be justified. It might be justified if colonisation prevents a discipline from progressing in ways that it might otherwise progress. It might also be justified if …Read more
  •  83
    Future technologies, dystopic futures and the precautionary principle
    Ethics and Information Technology 7 (3): 121-126. 2005.
    It is sometimes suggested that new research in such areas as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and genetic engineering should be halted or otherwise restricted because of concerns about possible catastrophic scenarios. Proponents of such restrictions typically invoke the precautionary principle, understood as a tool of policy formulation, as part of their case. Here I examine the application of the precautionary principle to possible catastrophic scenarios. I argue, along with Sunstein (Ri…Read more
  •  82
    Paternalism, Consent, and the Use of Experimental Drugs in the Military
    Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 33 (4): 337-355. 2008.
    Modern military organizations are paternalistic organizations. They typically recognize a duty of care toward military personnel and are willing to ignore or violate the consent of military personnel in order to uphold that duty of care. In this paper, we consider the case for paternalism in the military and distinguish it from the case for paternalism in medicine. We argue that one can consistently reject paternalism in medicine but uphold paternalism in the military. We consider two well-known…Read more
  •  79
    Jonathan Haidt ( 2001 ) advances the 'Social Intuitionist' account of moral judgment , which he presents as an alternative to rationalist accounts of moral judgment , hitherto dominant in psychology. Here I consider Haidt's anti-rationalism and the debate that it has provoked in moral psychology , as well as some anti-rationalist philosophical claims that Haidt and others have grounded in the empirical work of Haidt and his collaborators. I will argue that although the case for anti-rationalism …Read more
  •  65
    Appeals to intuitions as evidence in philosophy are challenged by experimental philosophers and other critics. A common response to experimental philosophical criticisms is to hold that only professional philosophers? intuitions count as evidence in philosophy. This ?expert intuitions defence? is inadequate for two reasons. First, recent studies indicate significant variability in professional philosophers? intuitions. Second, the academic literature on professional intuitions gives us reasons t…Read more
  •  57
    The supernatural and the miraculous
    Sophia 46 (3). 2007.
    Both intention-based and causation-based definitions of the miraculous make reference to the term ‘supernatural’. Philosophers who define the miraculous appear to use this term in a loose way, perhaps meaning the nonnatural, perhaps meaning a subcategory of the nonnatural. Here I examine the aetiology of the term ‘supernatural’. I consider three outstanding issues regarding the meaning of the term and conclude that the supernatural is best understood as a subcategory of the nonnatural. In light …Read more
  •  56
    When to Believe in Miracles
    American Philosophical Quarterly 34 (1). 1997.
    Brierley et al argue that in cases where it is medically futile to continue providing life-sustaining therapies to children in intensive care, medical professionals should be allowed to withdraw such therapies, even when the parents of these children believe that there is a chance of a miracle cure taking place. In reasoning this way, Brierley et al appear to implicitly assume that miracle cures will never take place, but they do not justify this assumption and it would be very difficult for the…Read more
  •  53
    The reversal test, status quo bias, and opposition to human cognitive enhancement
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (3): 369-386. 2016.
    Bostrom and Ord’s reversal test has been appealed to by many philosophers to substantiate the charge that preferences for status quo options are motivated by status quo bias. I argue that their characterization of the reversal test needs to be modified, and that their description of the burden of proof it imposes needs to be clarified. I then argue that there is a way to meet that burden of proof which Bostrom and Ord fail to recognize. I also argue that the range of circumstances in which the r…Read more
  •  52
    The fundamental attribution error and Harman's case against character traits
    South African Journal of Philosophy 25 (4): 350-368. 2006.
    Gilbert Harman argues that the warrant for the lay attribution of character traits is completely undermined by the “fundamental attribution error” (FAE). He takes it to have been established by social psychologists, that the FAE pervades ordinary instances of lay person perception. However, examination of recent work in psychology reveals that there are good reasons to doubt that the effects observed in experimental settings, which ground the case for the FAE, pervade ordinary instances of perso…Read more
  •  49
    Hume's Definition of Miracles Revised
    American Philosophical Quarterly 36 (1). 1999.
    It is argued that Hume’s definition of miracle stands in need of revision because it fails to be inclusive of acts of supernatural intervention in the world which are non-law-violating. Potential revisions of the definition, due to Paul Dietl and Christopher Hughes are considered and found to be inadequate, and a new definition is put forward; a miracle is "an intended outcome of an intervention in the natural world by a supernatural agent." An objection to this definition is anticipated and a d…Read more
  •  47
    Introducing Transformative Technologies into Democratic Societies
    Philosophy and Technology 25 (1): 27-45. 2012.
    Transformative technologies can radically alter human lives making us stronger, faster, more resistant to disease and so on. These include enhancement technologies as well as cloning and stem cell research. Such technologies are often approved of by many liberals who see them as offering us opportunities to lead better lives, but are often disapproved of by conservatives who worry about the many consequences of allowing these to be used. In this paper, we consider how a democratic government wit…Read more
  •  46
    Luck and miracles
    Religious Studies 39 (4): 471-474. 2003.
    In another paper published here, I criticized Stephen Mumford 's causation-based analysis of miracles on the grounds of its failure to produce results that are consistent with ordinary intuitions. In a response to me, intended as a defence of Mumford 's position, Morgan Luck finds fault with my rival approach to miracles on three grounds. In this response to Luck I argue that all three of his criticisms miss their mark. My response to Luck's final line of criticism helps shed light on the differ…Read more
  •  42
    Ontological disunity and a realism worth having
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (5): 628-629. 2004.
    Ross & Spurrett (R&S) appear convinced that the world must have a unified ontological structure. This conviction is difficult to reconcile with a commitment to mainstream realism, which involves allowing that the world may be ontologically disunified. R&S should follow Kitcher by weakening their conception of unification so as to allow for the possibility of ontological disunity.
  •  40
    Imperialism, Progress, Developmental Teleology, and Interdisciplinary Unification
    with Adrian Walsh
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 27 (3): 341-351. 2013.
    In a previous article in this journal, we examined John Dupré's claim that ‘scientific imperialism’ can lead to ‘misguided’ science being considered acceptable. Here, we address criticisms raised by Ian J. Kidd and Uskali Mäki against that article. While both commentators take us to be offering our own account of scientific imperialism that goes beyond that developed by Dupré, and go on to criticise what they take to be our account, our actual ambitions were modest. We intended to ‘explicate the…Read more
  •  40
    Bioconservatism, bioliberalism, and the wisdom of reflecting on repugnance
    with Rebecca Roach
    Monash Bioethics Review 28 (1): 04-1. 2009.
    We consider the current debate between bioconservatives and their chief opponents — whom we dub bioliberals — about the moral acceptability of human enhancement and the policy implications of moral debates about enhancement. We argue that this debate has reached an impasse, largely because bioconservatives hold that we should honour intuitions about the special value of being human, even if we cannot identify reasons to ground those intuitions. We argue that although intuitions are often a relia…Read more
  •  33
    Response to Mumford and another definition of miracles
    Religious Studies 39 (4): 459-463. 2003.
    Stephen Mumford concludes a recent paper in Religious Studies, in which he advances a new causation-based analysis of miracles, by stating that the onus is ‘on rival accounts of miracles to produce something that matches it’. I take up Mumford 's challenge, defending an intention-based definition of miracles, which I developed earlier, that he criticizes. I argue that this definition of miracles is more consistent with ordinary intuitions about miracles than Mumford 's causation-based alternativ…Read more